New Drug Tied To Actor’s Death, Johnny Lewis, an actor in the popular “Sons of Anarchy” motorcycle-gang cable drama, died early Wednesday in Los Angeles, suspected of killing his 81-year-old former landlord, Catherine Davis, and possibly himself.
Police think the 28-year-old rising star, who played Kip ‘Half-sack’ Epps on the FX show, may have been under the influence of a drug few have heard of, a substance known informally as “Smiles.”
It’s part of a new wave of synthetic drugs finding their way onto America’s streets and into its clubs. With the chemical name 2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodophenethylamine, it is known by drug agents and chemists as 2C-I, part of a closely-related family of “2C” drugs.
While Smiles may seem obscure, it’s already done damage, and not just in drug-hip Hollywood.
When 18-year-old Adam Budge of East Grand Forks, Minn., gave Smiles to his buddy, 17-year-old Elijah Stai, of nearby Park Rapids this year, Stai wound up dead. The drug was supposed to be a cheap, harmless high. But within an hour of mixing the powder into some chocolate and eating it, Stai was convulsing, hallucinating, and eventually stopped breathing. Now Budge faces charges that could put him in prison for many years.
But what is Smiles?
Like all the 2C drugs, it’s a psychoactive, hallucinogenic chemical that alter the brain’s balance of dopamine and serotonin. Smiles is particularly powerful, binding to serotonin receptors in the brain at 20 times the rate of another drug used in schizophrenia research, according to an experiment performed by Purdue University chemists.
The effects of 2C-I, like those of LSD, can last up to eight hours. But because the effects can take time to appear, users may think they haven’t taken enough to get the desired high, and so take more, risking overdose.